The Slide-to-unlock patent battles continue, long after the company ceased using the original UI – though it did later introduce a variation on the theme in the upward slide gesture first seen in the iPhone X.

But this time Apple is defending itself against a claim that it infringed on someone else’s patents …


Slide-to-unlock was a feature Steve Jobs specifically highlighted during the launch of the first iPhone back in 2007.

To unlock the phone, I just take my finger and slide it across. Wanna see that again? We wanted something you couldn’t do by accident in your pocket. Just slide it across – BOOM.

Some four years later, Apple was granted a patent for the gesture.

That patent was to result in a number of legal battles. Back in 2012, less than a year after the patent was granted, Apple accused HTC of infringement. HTC hit back, claiming that the idea was too simple and obvious to be patented. Apple lost that case, but that didn’t stop it accusing Samsung of infringing the same patent. Apple initially won that one, though the ruling was later overturned. Apple appealed that ruling, and this time won.

But Apple accused of infringing earlier Slide-to-unlock patent

Things didn’t end there, however. A patent troll called Zeroclick filed a lawsuit against Apple back in 2015, claiming that a pair of patents from 2001 and 2010 protected the concept behind Slide-to-unlock. There were again reversals on this one, Apple managing the get the case dismissed before it was revived in 2018 – and Apple once more won.

Zeroclick still persisted, and Patently Apple reports that Apple won last week, but only on a technicality. There had been some legal bickering over who owned the patents when, as they had been passed back-and-forth, and the judge ruled that the entity making the claim had no right to so do.

After further briefing from the parties, Judge Tigar dismissed the Zeroclick-1 Litigation on June 11, 2020. Judge Tigar determined that Zeroclick-1 lost standing to pursue the Zeroclick-1 Litigation as of December 2017, and struck all proceedings in that action since December 2017.

However, that would leave the door open for a fresh claim from the current patent owner, and Apple wants to put an end to this by asking for both Zeroclick patents to be declared invalid.

Apple’s lawsuit begins with a segment title “Nature of Action.” Apple’s position in-part states the following: “This is an action for declaratory judgment of invalidity of U.S. Patent No.8,549,443 and U.S. Patent No. 7,818,691 arising under the Declaratory Judgment Act.

The Zeroclick Patents were previously asserted against Apple by a prior entity also named Zeroclick (“Zeroclick-1”). Zeroclick-1 filed suit in this District on September 25, 2015, accusing Apple of infringing the Zeroclick Patents directly, contributorily, and by inducement.

Apple asserted in the Zeroclick-1 Litigation that it does not infringe the Zeroclick Patents and that the Zeroclick Patents are invalid and/or unpatentable under one or more provisions of 35 U.S.C. § 101, 102, 103, or 112, or other judicially created bases for invalidity.

You can read the full details here.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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